A lot of folks have been wondering what happened to the third year leap many expected from Kyrie Irving this season.
Maybe just turn on the Cavs games.
Kyrie Irving recorded his first career triple double on Friday in a home victory over the Utah Jazz, scoring 21 points, tying a career high of 12 assists, and picking up 10 rebounds. It was a great performance from a player who has had quite a few of them since early December. In his last 37 games Irving has shot 45/40/91 from the field, has a turnover rate that has been cut significantly from his rookie season, and, yeah, he has been playing some defense too.
This was Irving's fourth game in his last five in which he recorded at least nine assists. It's a small sample, to be sure, but it appears he enjoys playing Spencer Hawes, the trade deadline addition who seems to make things easier for quite a few Cavaliers. Hawes finished this game with 13 points and 16 rebounds. He had two assists, and Mike Brown made sure to note in his post game press conference that Hawes passing is leading to a lot of hockey assists where Kyrie can cut and find Tristan Thompson or spot up shooters from the wing. The dream of spacing when Hawes was acquired appears to be real.
And it's helping Tristan Thompson and Tyler Zeller. The Cavaliers find themselves with a somewhat surprising three man big rotation that has been remarkably competent . Thompson finished with 18 points, 14 rebounds, and 2 assists. I wrote in the preview for this game some of the ways in which Hawes can help him. In the first give games with Hawes, Thompson has a true shooting percentage of 59.5% which is about eight points better than what he has done for the year. Again, not a large sample size, but you hope he can build on that.
Zeller, too, continues to have a remarkable second season. A year after going through nights in which the center seemed to be allergic to rebounding, he finds himself being able to pull down nine rebounds in just 23 minutes of play. The Cavaliers as a team outrebounded the Jazz 56-31, and 13 of them were offensive on a night when they shot 49% from the field as a team. The ball was moving, the team was getting extra possessions, and outside of a tough first quarter, they were making them count.
This doesn't even get into the defense the Cavaliers played. I've pointed it out before, and I will point it out again. The Cavaliers have the 18th best defensive efficiency rating in the league, just a season removed from finishing 27th. Say what you want about Mike Brown, but that's serious improvement from a team that doesn't have too many great individual defenders. Brown has shown the ability to adjust, as the team no longer hedges as hard on pick and rolls.
Last night the Cavs didn't give up more than 20 points in any of the last three quarters of the game. The players, for now, appear to have bought in, and it is leading to some wins. The Cavaliers are 3 1/2 games out of a playoff spot. The schedule turns nightmarish, starting tonight. The team, although hurt, is in a good place heading into this stretch.
Let's have some fun.